The past will have no bearing on Currie Cup semi-finals

All that has gone before counts for nothing. That is the reality of the two Currie Cup semi-finals between the Sharks and Lions in Durban and the Blue Bulls and the Free State Cheetahs at Loftus in Pretoria on Saturday.


That is the reality of the two Currie Cup semi-finals between the Sharks and Lions in Durban and the Blue Bulls and the Free State Cheetahs at Loftus in Pretoria on Saturday.


The Sharks, who have been there or thereabouts throughout the Super 14 and Currie Cup seasons, seem to have timed their season to perfection, peaking at the right time.


They were close to sublime against a hapless Griquas last Saturday with great running from turnover ball, good support and generally a near-perfect game. In fact, that was probably their best showing of the season, even though Griquas is not a real yardstick.


This does not auger well for the Lions, who have – during the Currie Cup league phase as well as the Super 14 – simply let too many scoring opportunities go.

 

It happened too often during the season that coach Eugene Eloff said “we should have won it,” or “we were the better team on the day.”

 

If they can put that right, the Sharks better beware. Not that the Sharks will take Saturday’s match for granted.

 

They have a worrying habit of losing their play-offs – and it is borne out by the fact that they have not won the Currie Cup since 1996 although they have played in flour finals since then.

In fact, last year, the Lions derailed the Sharks in Durban when very few would have put their money on the visitors.


The difference between the two sides perhaps lies in the fact that the Sharks have a number of game breakers, whereas the Lions have none.


They’re a very talented bunch of honest players, but they simply don’t have a Frederik Michalack, a Ruan Pienaar, Francois Steyn or Ryan Kankowski in their line-up.


These men and their team-mates – like Bismarck du Plessis and Jean Deyzel on the drive and quicksilver Adi Jacobs – must be curbed and that can only be done by starving them of the ball.


The Lions have a front row to stand firm against the Bok outfit of the home side. They won the lineouts against the Sharks last time out, and on the ground there is currently nobody in South Africa better than Baywatch Grobbelaar.


But theirs will have to be a team effort, and one wonders whether even that will be enough.


The Blue Bulls and defending champions Free State have dominated the Currie Cup for the last six years with the Blue Bulls winning three times, the Free State twice and one title shared.


The Cheetahs have a way of derailing the Blue Bulls, even in Pretoria, and Victor Matfield and his experienced troops are aware of that.


The Bulls have been devastating on the few occasions that they did strike form in this year’s Currie Cup, but they have been inclined to play for only 40 minutes in a match.


The full 80 minutes of focus and effort should see them prevail for another final; over-confidence will see the very determined but much younger Free State side take the spoils.


Semi-final fixtures:


Saturday:


Sharks v Lions, Absa Stadium, Durban, 2.30pm
Blue Bulls v Free State Cheetahs, Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria, 5pm


Sapa – CurrieCupRugby.com

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